The Beauty of Small Towns

            Porchetta. . . ciambella . . . carbonara.   Eight weeks ago, I never imagined these exotic words would have any meaning to me.   And little did I know that Ariccia, Italy, would be such an enchanting and compelling place to spend my summer learning about Italy’s incredible culture, cuisine, and history.  As we complete the first seven weeks of our program, the spectacular views, impressive palaces and villas, and the numerous wineries make this experience unforgettable. My long-awaited dream has finally come true after signing up for the Joseph S. Bruno program at Camp War Eagle three years ago and I could not be more thankful to be here. 

The Summer 2021 JSB group has had a different experience than most groups due to COVID-19. We are not allowed to travel alone or outside of Italy in general.  Instead, we chose to go on ‘optional excursions’ as a group which are planned for us by one of the program coordinators. At first, I was disappointed and uncertain about the new travel restriction rule. I had planned to go to Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Mykonos like many other students in previous study abroad programs.   Instead, each weekend we have traveled to little-known places that I could never imagined. These little towns include Viterbo, Matera, Castiglione della Pescaia, and Abruzzo National Park.  Each town has its own unique personality that makes it truly memorable. I have learned to appreciate the smaller towns and have really been able to understand the Italian people and culture on a much more personal level.

Through my JSB experience, I have learned that small towns are hidden gems. There is a reason they are not overrun with tourists and have not doubled the price of cappuccinos (Italian version of coffee), gelato (Italian version of ice cream), and pasta. There is a reason the air is pure and the locals continue to stay. There is a reason that I am quickly and easily learning Italian culture. From now on, I will continue to appreciate and visit small towns as I travel in the future.

Yes, we have traveled to towns like Rome and Sorrento. Although these cities are incredible in their own ways, I sometimes find myself being overwhelmed by the massive crowds and the high prices. I am always ready to come home to the familiar, small town of Ariccia and take on our next weekend excursion to an unknown small town.

This experience has opened my eyes to an entirely new world, and I cannot wait to keep exploring.  And yes, I now love porchetta (a type of pork belly that Ariccia is known for), ciambella (powdered donuts sold in bakeries in every little town) and carbonara (a local and popular pasta dish made with eggs, noodles, cheese, and pork.)  These words are not exotic anymore!

Two best friends happily dancing in the Castiglione della Pescaia sunset!

Love from Ariccia,

Bess Watson